8 Backyard Toys We Wish We’d Had as Kids (So Now Obviously We’re Buying Them For Our Kids)

published May 9, 2023
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Product photo of
Credit: Williams Sonoma

When I was a kid I enjoyed nice, long suburban summers, where no parents sent kids to summer camps and everyone stayed up late enough to see the fireflies. But in terms of great backyard toys, I don’t remember even having a Slip ‘N Slide. I had awkward, rusty roller skates, a swing set and, by second grade, a 10-speed bike. When we got too hot, my brother and I turned the hose on each other. 

All of which is just to say that I am madly jealous of the kids of the summer of 2023.

Some of this year’s summer toys are things we couldn’t have even imagined in the last century. Now that we’re parents and these wonders exist, you’d better believe we’re buying them for our kids. We might also use them ourselves — you know, ironically.

1 / 8
Pottery Barn Kids
was $159.00

There’s a what? An eight-and-a-half-foot rainbow in your backyard? What are you, Disneyland? Plus this rainbow gets hooked up to a hose! Pottery Barn Kids released it a couple of years ago and it remains a huge hit. If you’re the family that puts giant inflatables up for the winter holidays, you may as well keep it going through the summertime with this.

2 / 8

A regular backyard fort looks silly next to this new Step2 offering: a camper. It doubles as a food truck, and if your kids ran their lemonade stand out of this they’d probably make a mint. It has a pretend grill, pretend food, a little seat inside, and a working doorbell. (Not sure why a food truck needs one, but definitely sure kids will ring it 500 times.) The only caution in the reviews is that the build is a bit fierce — maybe have a power drill ready. Once it’s up, though, the kids (and parents) love it.

3 / 8

Back to lemonade stands: Mine was an overturned box that my friend Emily and I sat behind. Now kids can get this reusable one, still from sturdy cardboard but a million times cuter with a jaunty little awning. It comes with pretend money but I see no reason why you wouldn’t write some actual offerings on that chalkboard sign and have the kids raise some real money for a favorite cause. When you’re done it folds and stores.

4 / 8

Six-year-old me would be so jealous of this bike that lights up. There are even lights on the training wheels, making them so much cooler! They flash in three different colors and three different light patterns. The bike uses the coaster brakes, so kids just pedal backward to slow down and stop.

5 / 8

The old RC racing vehicles for kids used to be weak sauce. This monster truck, on the other hand, can rumble over land and keep moving across water — a puddle or your backyard pool are all fair game. It came out in 2020, so I keep fearing they’ll discontinue it, but for now this bad boy shark-truck is still on the move.

6 / 8

You might be all, “This isn’t a backyard toy,” but kids know that a Barbie camper goes outside for play on the deck or porch. It also probably sneaks into the actual yard so kids can pretend the camper got lost and is having an off-road adventure (the wheels roll on this — it’s no dollhouse). Probably some of the 60+ accessories will disappear, and also you need to have a doll to ride in this, but expect your kid to get hours of pretend play out of it.

7 / 8

If you didn’t play with bubbles, did you really do summer? In my day we had to huff and puff to blow one bubble at a time. But with this $5 set from Walmart, kids can swing the paddle and make [tries to count] a lot of bubbles at a time! But wait, you can make more if you want. For a little more money, invest in a bubble machine and welcome a bubble blizzard.

8 / 8

I’m ending on a big one here, but come on. It’s a bounce house with a water slide that fits in your backyard! Although it inflates to 12 feet long, the whole thing apparently only weighs 22 pounds and fits back in a storage bag (with some finesse, I’m sure) so you can hide it in the garage and then whip it out one afternoon to blow the kids’ minds. I hope they know how good they have it.

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